Cook CFB leadership meets with IDOA Director Costello
Cook County Farm Bureau leaders Todd Price, board member, Ruth Zeldenrust, board member, Kim Morton, Governmental Affairs Team member, and Bob Rohrer, Cook County Farm Bureau manager met with Mr. Jerry Costello II, Director of Illinois Department of Agriculture and Mr. Rob Baren, agricultural Legislative Liaison for the department.
During the discussion session, the group reviewed agriculture in the state of Illinois as it emerges from the pandemic. Director Costello said, “As agriculture in Illinois comes out of the pandemic, I believe that the Illinois farmers are going to have a number of new product opportunities, production demand, and market capabilities. The pandemic demonstrated to the public agriculture’s importance in our state”.
Cook County Farm Bureau leadership expressed appreciation to Director Costello for his leadership during the pandemic in making sure that Cook County farm stands, garden centers, greenhouses, farmers markets’, and produce farmers were able to remain open to the public as an essential worker group. The director stated, “It did not make sense to us last spring that certain businesses in the state could continue to operate but smaller farmer businesses providing the same type of products could not.” Director Costello indicated that the weekly conference calls he had in 2020 with key agricultural groups including the Illinois Farm Bureau and commodity organizations were very important in staying in touch with the issues facing farmers.
The group also discussed the challenges in finding agricultural labor, especially in labor dependent farming operations. The Director indicated that his department was having similar issues as it relates to finding workers for the two Illinois state fairs that happened in August. Workers with difficulties finding childcare continues to be an issue. Some farms that depend on migrant farmworkers continue to have challenges in the process. He indicated that as Covid-related unemployment dollars end this fall, it will be interesting to see if unemployment numbers increase or decrease.
The importance of rural connectivity and internet access, especially for effective education and business functions was discussed. Alternative energy, including solar and wind, was brought up. The need for a strong agricultural mitigation agreement and enforcement was emphasized as a key for farmers and their property rights. Cook County Farm Bureau leaders also urged the Director to continue to seek ways to support area small livestock processing to accommodate the locally grown livestock demand. The Director indicated that his department continues to add meat inspectors as an important health and safety connection for the public.
Director Costello was appointed as acting director by Gov. Pritzker to lead the IDOA in February 2020. He was approved by the Illinois Senate in April 2021 as Director. As acting director, he was immediately thrust into the various agricultural issues connected with the Governor’s stay-at-home order, supply chain disruption, essential worker guidelines, transportation of essential products, and a number of other issues.
Todd Price presented the Director with a Cook County Farm Bureau 100-year anniversary gift bag including the history book and logo hat, lapel pin, coffee tumbler, and more. Director Costello was also shown the location on the Cook County Farm Bureau grounds in which the organization is installing a pollinator garden this fall.
(left to right) Cook County Farm Bureau leaders Kim Morton and Todd Price met with the Illinois Department of Agriculture Director, Jerry Costello II, and Legislative Liaison for the department, Rob Baren, to discuss agricultural issues in Cook County and to bring the Director up to date regarding the Cook County Farm Bureau’s activities.